It Takes One Man: Early History of the East African Revival

Holy dissatisfaction led Simeon Nsibambi to seek God for the fullness of His promises. Simeon’s zeal sparked the hearts of other believers and eventually initiated a spiritual renewal throughout parts of Rwanda, Congo, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia in the 1920s-40s.

The following is an excerpt from Ugandan Pastor John Mulinde’s book, Pursuing God’s Corporate Destiny.

Simeon Nsibambi fought in the First World War in India and Burma. When he came back to Uganda, he became a chief. He was his father’s heir and he was a Christian. There was something lacking in the church of Christ, which he had experienced in the army - the discipline of submission to authority - obedience.

He sought answers and even went to his bishop to ask him, “If Jesus is our Commander, why don’t we obey Him? Everyone in church is doing his or her own thing. They know what is good to do but do not do it. When I was in the army I had a captain over me and when he said, ‘go’ I would go; when he said, ‘come,’ I would come.”

"Jesus is a greater Commander than my captain in the army was. Why is it I find it hard to obey Jesus? Help me bishop.” The bishop told him, "You are normal. As long as we are in this flesh, that kind of thing has to happen. So do not worry about it. You are alright.”

Simeon went home unconvinced. He could not really continue as he was. He figured, “We are called the army of Jesus Christ. If any army in the world fought as we fight, they would not win a single battle. Everyone does as he wants, does it his own way, many people do not even hear the voice of the Commander and when they hear it they do not obey.”

He said, "I am a soldier and I know that such an army does not win” Because he was chief, he had some influence. He invited pastors and clergymen to his home. When they came he had prepared a big feast for them.

After they had eaten, he asked them, "Do you believe we are an army for Jesus?” They said, “Yes we are.” He asked further, “Do you believe we have a mission and it is to disciples nations for Jesus?” They said, “Yes that is our mission.” Then he began to challenge them on the lack of compliance and submission to the Commander.

He said, “You are our leaders, can’t you help us to get power to walk as the Lord wants us to walk? Is it for only this that Jesus? Is this all that Christianity means? Is this the way we shall disciple our nations?” None of the clergy had an answer.

After that, Simeon decided, “I am going to seek God. I am going to pray, fast, and seek Him until I find Him.” He started seeking God in the mid 1920s and by 1930; he was baptized in the power of the Holy Spirit. The overcoming power of God came upon his life.

…Young people began to pray with them, seek God, and were filled with the Holy Spirit. Suddenly the joy of the Lord was beginning to be felt. The corporate body was beginning to be activated into many small pockets among the youth. They did not keep quiet about it. They began to travel out of Kampala to their towns all over the nation inviting other young people to meet, and challenging them to seek God.

Older people in the church viewed these developments as the young people condemning them. They would say, “Are you saying we do not know God? If you think you are better why don't you leave the church and form another one?" The young people were focused on God's course for their lives, they were not deterred by the comments of the older people. They refused to break away but remained in church. They remained submitted to the leadership. The fire of revival was growing.

Change begins slowly but gains momentum as it grows. One of the commonest things is that there will always be mockers. Those who say, “Well you say you are praying, where is the revival? You have been praying for a year or two or three, where is the thing you talk about?”

Nobody called it revival. Nobody said, “O a mighty move is happening in Uganda.” They knew they had touched something and would not let go of it. They continued faithfully.